Sooner or later, you're going to tweak your back, and there's nothing you'll ever experience, perhaps shy of limb dismemberment, that'll put a stop to your training as cruelly or effectively. Of course, if you've already had some back problems, you know what we're talking about. Either way we recommend you bone up on the back. It's one complex little beastie.
Another day, another happy Maximum Strength customer!
Just wrapped up your Maximum Strength program and I was definitely more than pleased with the results. I know it's a little weird that I switched up the box height on the box squat. I switched because the pre-MS box squat was the first time I ever performed the box squat. Here are my numbers:
Body Fat: 16%
Weight: 178 at 5'9
Box Squat (24 inch box): 315
3 RM Chin: BW+35
Broadjump: 87 in.
Body Fat: 10%
Box Squat (12 inch box): 325
Conventional Deadlift: 403
3RM Chin: BW+50
Broadjump: 96 in.
Q&A: Hip Injuries in Baseball
Q: On Sunday, The New York Times published this article that discusses the dramatic increase in hip injuries in Major League Baseball in recent years. I know you work with a ton of baseball players and was curious about your thoughts on the article. Do you agree with their theories?
A: As always, my answer is "kind of" or "maybe." I think they make some great points in the article, but as is the case with mainstream media articles, they're written by reporters with word count limits, so a lot of the most important points get omitted. For example, with respect to the hips, it isn't as simple as "weak or strong." You can have guys with ridiculously strong adductors that are completely overused, balled up, and short - but terribly weak hip extensors and abductors. So, part of the problem is that journalists don't even qualify as casual observers to exercise physiology, so the public only gets part of the story.
(Sorry, but that digression was totally worth it.)
First, I agree that one of the reasons we are seeing more of these issues is because doctors have become better at diagnosing the problems. The "corollary" to this would be that the issues are perceived as more severe because so few physical therapists, athletic trainers, and strength and conditioning coaches are comfortable treating and preventing the problems. That's not to say that hip issues aren't serious in nature; it simply implies that there is a divide between diagnostic capabilities and treatment/prevention strategies.
Second, I agree wholeheartedly that early specialization at the youth levels can lead to injuries down the road. We're dealing with some significant rotational velocities at the hips. In previous analyses of professional hitters, the hips rotated at a velocity of 714°/second. This same velocity isn't the same with little leaguers, but with skeletally immature children, it doesn't take as much stress to impose the same kind of damage. So, I don't see it as at all remarkable that some pro ballplayers have hip problems after they may have played baseball year-round from age 9 all the way to the time they got drafted. They also have bad shoulders, elbows, knees, and lower backs that have taked years to reach threshold. It just so happens that folks are getting better at diagnosing these problems, so we now have an "epidemic," in some folks' eyes.
What I can tell you, though, is that it's borderline idiocy to think that strength training is responsible for these problems. Injuries don't occur simply because you enhance strength. In fact, muscular strength reduces the time to threshold for tendinopathies, and takes stress off passive restraints such as ligaments, menisci, labrums, and discs. Making this assumption is like saying that strength training drills to bolster scapular stability may be the reason we see more shoulder and elbow injuries nowadays. Um, no. Shoulders and elbows crap out because of faulty mechanics, poor flexibility (e.g., shoulder internal rotation ROM), bad tissue quality, and muscular weakness. Granted, the shoulder (non-weight-bearing) and hips (weight-bearing) have different demands, but nobody ever tried to pin the exorbitant amount of arm problems in pitchers on "the advent of strength training."
That said, injuries occur when you ignore things that need to be addressed: pure and simple.
To that end, I can tell you that a large percentage of the baseball players I see - including position players, pitchers, and catchers - have some signficant hip ROM and tissue quality problems. In terms of range of motion, the most common culprints are hip internal rotation deficit (HIRD) and a lack of hip extension and knee flexion (rectus femoris shortness). Pitchers are often asymmetrical in hip flexion, too, with the front leg having much more ROM. In terms of tissue quality, the hip external rotations, hip flexors, and adductors are usually very restricted.
This is has proven true of guys who lift and guys who don't lift. The latter group just so happens to be skinny and weak, too!
Done appropriately, strength training isn't causing the problem - particularly when we are talking about huge contracts that restrict how aggressive programming can be. Trust me; guys with $20 million/year contracts aren't squatting 500 pounds very often...or ever. The risk-reward is way out of whack, and no pro strength coach is going to put his job on the line with programming like that.
However, strength training may be indirectly contributing to the problem by shifting an athlete's focus away from flexibility training and foam rolling/massage. Pro athletes are like everyone else in this world in that they have a limited time to devote to training, but to take it a step further, they have a lot of competing demands for their attention: hitting, throwing, lifting, sprinting, stretching, and soft tissue work. So, they have to pick the modalities that give them the biggest return on time investment and prioritize accordingly in terms of how much time they devote to these initiatives. Some guys make bad choices in this regard, and hip flexibility and tissue quality get ignored.
Baseball is a sport that doesn't permit ignorance, unfortunately, and this is one of many reasons why it has one of the highest injury rates in all of professional sports. We are talking about an extremely long competitive season with near daily games - a schedule that makes it challenging to maintain/build strength, flexibility, and tissue quality. Throwing a baseball is also the fastest motion in all of sports. Rotational sports have the pelvis and torso rotating in opposite directions at the same time. And, as I noted in Oblique Strains and Rotational Power, most professional ballplayers have a stride length of about 380% of hip width during hitting. It is really just a matter of which joint will break down first: hip, knee, or lower back. Taking immobile hips with poor tissue quality out into a long season with these demands is like doing calf raises in the power rack when someone is around with a video camera: you are just asking for a world of hurt.
So, what to do? Well, first, get cracking on tissue quality with regular foam rolling and massage (the more an athlete can afford, the better). Here is the sequence all Cressey Performance athletes go through before training.
In many of our guys, we also add in extra adductor rolling on the stretching table.
Second, you've got to hammer on flexibility. We spend a ton of time with both static stretching and dynamic flexibility. Here are a few of the static stretching favorites (the first to gain hip internal rotation, and the second to gain hip extension and knee flexion ROM):
Third, as Dr. Eric Cobb has written, you use resistance training to "cement neural patterns." This includes all sorts of lower-body lifting variations - from single-leg movements, to glute-ham raise, to deadlifting and squatting variations - and multi-directional core stability drills. And, often overlooked is the valuable role of medicine ball training in teaching good hip (and scap) loading patterns:
For more information, check out my previous newsletter, Medicine Ball Madness, which describes our off-season medicine ball programs in considerable detail.
All taken together, my take is that the increase in hip injuries at the MLB level has everything to do with early baseball specialization and improved diagnostic capabilities. However, when you examine hip dysfunction under a broader scope, you'll see that this joint breaks down for many of the same reasons that lower backs and knees reach threshold: inattention to tissue quality and targeted flexibility training. Strength training works synergistically with these other components of an effective program just like it would at any other joint.
*A special thanks goes out to Tony "Explosive Calves" Gentilcore for being a good sport in the videos in this newsletter.
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I usually write my blog posts a few days in advance - and that's the case with today's blog, which I'm actually writing on Friday night, May 29. It's 10:31PM, and I'm not going to lie: I'm absolutely exhausted (and, I guess it technically should be called "tonight's blog," even if it's published four days after I write it).
My fiancee had a pre-graduation party of sorts to attend with some classmates, and because I was covering the gym until 5:30PM (and Friday traffic in Boston is a pain in the butt), I wasn't home in time to tag along. Since I'm pretty beat and I missed out on my chance to have some fun tonight, I decided to make lemonade out of rotten lemons.
Sure, I wrote a few programs for athletes and answered a few emails, but the "excitement" for my night was a chance to get better as a coach. You see, I delved into the folder I keep on my desktop entitled "Overhead Throwing Journal Articles." Essentially, this folder is full of PDFs of all sorts of studies relating to baseball - from injury prevention, to performance, to characteristics of successful athletes. Call me a dork, but it's a Friday night, and I'm psyched to be reading this stuff.
Why? Well, I want to be the best in the world at developing baseball talent - for my sake, my family's sake, and most importantly, for the athletes who trust their development to me. Baseball players account for 74% of the Cressey Performance clientele, and I feel it's my obligation to them to be as on-top of things as is humanly possible.
I don't want this to come across as a "hooray for me" post, so I'm trying to choose my words wisely - but I can honestly say that I HATE not knowing something. It's a hatred that's driven me to read everything I can get my hands on and make the most of the valuable experiences I've been afforded and relationships I've cultivated with bright minds in related fields of study.
A few weekends ago, during the Q&A section of the Perform Better Summit in Providence, Al Vermeil - quite possibly the best strength and conditioning coach of all time (has won multiple Super Bowl and NBA Championship rings) - came right out and said (paraphrased, as I recall it), "I'm tired of hearing about people in the fitness industry asking about how to make more money. The only thing I ever focused on was becoming a better coach. Get really good at what you do and then you'll make enough money."
It really rang true for me, as my mindset all along has always been to just keep getting smarter and smarter: something that's easy for me to work toward, as I genuinely love what I do. I often get asked how I have accomplished so much by age 28, and the answer is that I really love it, and work has never been about a paycheck. It's been about gathering, interpreting, utilizing, and disseminating information - to my athletes and reading/viewing audiences.
So, I guess you could say that a Friday night with a collection of journal articles isn't such a bad thing. I'm guessing Al Vermeil had plenty of "Journal Fridays" along the way to all those rings. When was the last time you set aside a Friday night (or several of them) to get better in your chosen field?
It was a great Sunday all around yesterday.
First, my fiancee officially became a doctor. Yep, I picked a good one.
Second, Cressey Performance athlete Dede Griesbauer won Ironman-Brazil, setting a course record by ten minutes in the process. Congratulations, Dede!
Third, Lincoln-Sudbury came from behind to win their D1 second round playoff game, 8-7. CP athletes Justin Quinn, Derek Lowe, and Erik Watkins all hit homeruns for LS, and Watkins won it with a single with two outs in the ninth inning.
Fourth, CP athlete Sahil Bloom got a win and a save in Weston's D3 playoff win yesterday. Sahil struck out nine and walked none in 6.2 innings of work - and went 3-4 at the plate.
Fifth, on Saturday, Wayland upset the #3 seed to advanced to the second round of the D2 state baseball tournament.
Sixth, Tyler Beede pitched a shutout in his team's opening round win in the D2 state tournament on Saturday.
The week gets off to a good start today, as I'm picking up my new car, and a host of the college guys start training today as the New England Collegiate Baseball League kicks off. And, we've got two CP athletes (who also happen to be good buddies and off-season roommates) going head-to-head in a AAA match-up. Will Inman (Portland/Padres) will be facing Steve Hammond (Fresno/Giants) in Fresno tonight; I will be pulling for both to go eight innings of shutout ball and get no-decisions!